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Navigating the Finder in Mac OS X Lion

3 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Getting Around the Mac OS X Lion Screen

The Finder is the program that creates the Desktop, keeps track of your files and folders, and is always running. Just about everything you do on your Mac in OS X Lion begins and ends with the Finder. It’s where you manage files, store documents, launch programs, and much more. If you ever expect to master your Mac, the first step is to master the Finder and its Desktop.


The Finder is the center of your Mac OS experience, so here’s a quick description of its most prominent features:

  • Desktop: The Desktop is the area behind the windows and the Dock, where your hard-drive icon (ordinarily) lives. The Desktop isn’t a window, yet it acts like one. Like a folder window or drive window, the Desktop can contain icons. But unlike most windows, which require a bit of navigation to get to, the Desktop is a great place for things you use a lot, such as folders, applications, or particular documents.

  • Dock: The Dock is the Finder’s main navigation shortcut tool. It makes getting to frequently used icons easy, even when you have a screen full of windows. Like the Desktop, the Dock is a great place for things you use a lot, such as folders, applications, or particular documents. Besides putting your frequently used icons at your fingertips, it’s almost infinitely customizable.

  • Icons: Icons are the little pictures you see in your windows and even on your Desktop. Most icons are containers for things you work with on your Mac, such as programs and documents, which are also represented by icons.

  • Windows: Opening most icons (by double-clicking them) makes a window appear. Windows in the Finder show you the contents of hard-drive and folder icons, and windows in applications usually show you the contents of your documents.

  • Menus: Menus let you choose to do things, such as create new folders; duplicate files; cut, copy, or paste text; and so on.

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